In my last essay, titled “How to Talk to People in Europe Without Sounding Like a Stupid Foreigner,” I dropped some pearls of advice to American travelers in Europe. I will now reverse myself and
poke fun of advise tourists about how to act while in New York City.
Tourists from the US and Canada:
I don’t care what they call it where you come from. A sandwich on a long piece of bread is a “hero.” Write that on a piece of paper, memorize it, then burn it.
A sweet, fizzy drink that comes in a bottle or a can is a “soda.” It is not “pop” or anything else. You will get some really funny looks here if you ask for a bottle of “pop.” Locals will think you are asking for some new street drug that they never heard of and will be disappointed to find out that all you are talking about is a can of Sprite.
No, you won’t find Tim Horton doughnuts here. Some people consider that a national tragedy.
The people at Katz’s Delicatessen are happy to put up a sign letting everyone know where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were sitting when they filmed the famous “fake orgasm” scene from When Harry Met Sally. You will not be encouraged to try the same thing, though. Don’t even think about it.
If you are walking down the street looking for a bathroom, forget it. You will have to hold it in or go into a restaurant and order something you don’t want just so you can use their restroom. Going behind a building is not recommended. You don’t know what you’ll find there or where it’s been.
New York is a noisy city. We’re used to it. We don’t even notice it most of the time. So don’t complain to us about noise. We’ll just look at you and say, “Yeah? And …?”
Tourists from Europe
Repeat this until it is firm in your heads: “I will tip at least 20 percent.” Gratuities might be figured into every restaurant bill where you come from, but we don’t do that here. If you stiff the wait staff on a tip, you had better choose another eatery for your next excursion. The staff won’t forget, and they can find ways to make you pay if you dare to show your face.
I don’t care what your guide is making you do. Please do not congregate on street corners and force the locals to have to make the choice of walking around you or knocking you over to cross the street. New Yorkers are always in a hurry, and we are not inclined to be kind to an unmovable clump at a street corner, no matter how confused and lost you are all looking.
Don’t try to cut in line at Starbucks in front of one of the locals, if you value your life as it is.
If you make your friends stand on one side of a sidewalk while you stand on the other side with the camera, taking their picture, don’t be surprised if you end up with a photograph containing strangers walking in front of you, one of whom is flipping you the bird.
If you must ride a subway, please don’t do it during rush hours, especially if you are carrying backpacks and/or schlepping luggage-on-a-stick.
Wearing flipflops on Manhattan sidewalks on one of those hot, humid New York summer days is not recommended, unless you love the feel of blistering feet.
Thank you all for coming to our city, spending money and aiding the local economy. We hope you enjoy your stay here, and that it will be, at it’s worst, only minimally painful for us.